March 25, 2011

BQ

Yves Lessard

Bloc Québécois

Mr. Yves Lessard (Chambly—Borduas, BQ)

Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development is misleading people who are unemployed when she says that the reform proposed by the Bloc Québécois and the unions would allow individuals to receive 50 weeks of benefits for 360 hours of work; this is untrue. For example, in Chicoutimi, a person would receive 20 weeks of benefits, which is not an excessive amount.

Will the Minister of Human Resources stop bending the truth in imitation of her colleague, the Minister of International Cooperation, and finally admit that 360 hours of work does not entitle a person to 50 weeks of employment insurance benefits?

Topic:   Oral Questions
Subtopic:   Employment Insurance
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CPC

Diane Finley

Conservative

Hon. Diane Finley (Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development, CPC)

Mr. Speaker, what we have done with our economic action plan is to offer those who are unemployed opportunities to learn new skills and take training courses to prepare them to get jobs today and in the future. We want to help them to work, to work for themselves, so that they can take care of their families and regain their dignity. This is something that the Bloc Québécois has denied.

Topic:   Oral Questions
Subtopic:   Employment Insurance
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LIB

Denis Coderre

Liberal

Hon. Denis Coderre (Bourassa, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, we are hearing all kinds of comments. We have heard the word “coalition” many times. The Conservatives are laying it on thickly today. I would like to table a very short, but very important, document. It is dated September 9, 2004.

It read:

Her Excellency the Right Honourable Adrienne Clarkson,

Excellency,

As leaders of the opposition parties, we are well aware that, given the Liberal minority government, you could be asked by the Prime Minister to dissolve the 38th Parliament at any time should the House of Commons fail to support some part of the government’s program. We respectfully point out that the opposition parties, who together constitute a majority in the House, have been in close consultation. We believe that, should a request for dissolution arise this should give you cause, as constitutional practice has determined, to consult the opposition leaders and consider all of your options before exercising your constitutional authority. Your attention to this matter is appreciated.

It was signed, “Sincerely, [the Prime Minister],” who was then the leader of the opposition of the Conservative Party, and by the member of Parliament for Laurier—Sainte-Marie, the leader of the Bloc Québécois, and the member of Parliament for Toronto—Danforth, the leader of the New Democratic Party. Their coalition.

I ask the majority of the members, who form this House, unanimous consent to table this document, so everybody can know that the Conservatives wanted to sleep with them. What is going on?

Topic:   Oral Questions
Subtopic:   Points of Order
Sub-subtopic:   Oral Questions
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LIB

Peter Milliken

Liberal

The Speaker

Does the hon. member for Bourassa have the unanimous consent of the House to table this document?

Topic:   Oral Questions
Subtopic:   Points of Order
Sub-subtopic:   Oral Questions
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?

Some hon. members

Agreed.

No.

Topic:   Oral Questions
Subtopic:   Points of Order
Sub-subtopic:   Oral Questions
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LIB

Peter Milliken

Liberal

The Speaker

There is no consent.

The hon. chief government whip is rising on a point of order.

Topic:   Oral Questions
Subtopic:   Points of Order
Sub-subtopic:   Oral Questions
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CPC

Gordon O'Connor

Conservative

Hon. Gordon O'Connor (Minister of State and Chief Government Whip, CPC)

Mr. Speaker, during question period, the member for Ottawa South referred to the Prime Minister in a derogatory and, I think, unparliamentary fasion. I expect him to apologize. Otherwise, I will refer to him as a gutless member.

Topic:   Oral Questions
Subtopic:   Points of Order
Sub-subtopic:   Oral Questions
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?

Some hon. members

Oh, oh!

Topic:   Oral Questions
Subtopic:   Points of Order
Sub-subtopic:   Oral Questions
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LIB

Peter Milliken

Liberal

The Speaker

I think we will end it there. I will examine the record to see if anything was said, but I did not hear anything.

The hon. government House leader is rising on a point of order.

Topic:   Oral Questions
Subtopic:   Points of Order
Sub-subtopic:   Oral Questions
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CPC

John Baird

Conservative

Hon. John Baird (Leader of the Government in the House of Commons, CPC)

Mr. Speaker, I rise once again to try to bring unity to the House, changing the subject to do something good for Canada.

Mr. Speaker, I believe that if you were to seek it, you would find unanimous consent for the following motion. I move:

That notwithstanding any Standing Order or usual practices of the House, following Question Period today a member from each recognized party and the Deputy Speaker may make a brief statement and the time taken for these statements shall be added to the time provided for government orders.

Topic:   Oral Questions
Subtopic:   Points of Order
Sub-subtopic:   Oral Questions
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LIB

Peter Milliken

Liberal

The Speaker

Does the hon. government House leader have the unanimous consent of the House to propose this motion?

Topic:   Oral Questions
Subtopic:   Points of Order
Sub-subtopic:   Oral Questions
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?

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Topic:   Oral Questions
Subtopic:   Points of Order
Sub-subtopic:   Oral Questions
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LIB

Peter Milliken

Liberal

The Speaker

The House has heard the terms of the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Topic:   Oral Questions
Subtopic:   Points of Order
Sub-subtopic:   Oral Questions
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?

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Topic:   Oral Questions
Subtopic:   Points of Order
Sub-subtopic:   Oral Questions
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LIB

Peter Milliken

Liberal

The Speaker

I declare the motion carried.

(Motion agreed to)

Topic:   Oral Questions
Subtopic:   Points of Order
Sub-subtopic:   Oral Questions
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CPC

John Baird

Conservative

Hon. John Baird (Leader of the Government in the House of Commons, CPC)

Mr. Speaker, I am very privileged to rise today to pay tribute to a great Canadian, someone who will not be seeking re-election to this place after serving 23 years as the member of Parliament for Kingston and the Islands. I am, of course, talking about you, Mr. Speaker.

The Speaker and I have known each other since I was 19 years old when I was a young Queen's University student. Our first encounter was rather interesting and I think he knows what I am talking about. I was protesting the Speaker when he was running against the Honourable Flora Isabel MacDonald. All judicial matters were cleared up a few months after that first encounter.

Mr. Speaker, for four terms as the Speaker, you have conducted yourself with great integrity, with great professionalism. You are thoughtful. You are intelligent. You have enjoyed the confidence of this House each and every sitting day of those four terms. That is a remarkable accomplishment.

You are aware that you have been elected by majority Liberal governments, by minority Liberal governments, and by minority Conservative governments. I think it speaks to the number of friends and the high esteem in which you are held by each and every member of this place.

After becoming government House leader, I had an opportunity to visit the Palace of Westminster, the mother of all parliaments. The Speaker of the House of Commons there said that he and Speakers in the Commonwealth around the world looked to you as their leader and their inspiration as someone who has conducted himself very professionally. For a Canadian to hear that from a British Speaker is a pretty remarkable conclusion and assessment of your role as Speaker.

Not only are you the longest serving Speaker in Canadian history, you have also been elected, so others who have served at great length did not have that distinction. Indeed, Mr. Speaker, you will go down in history as one of the best Speakers, if not the best Speaker, that the House of Commons has ever had.

On behalf of the Prime Minister, on behalf of the government caucus, on behalf of the people of Canada, and I think especially on behalf of the people of Kingston and the Islands, we want to thank you for your remarkable contribution to Parliament and your remarkable public service to this great country. We want to wish you well.

Topic:   Oral Questions
Subtopic:   Speaker of the House of Commons
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LIB

Michael Ignatieff

Liberal

Hon. Michael Ignatieff (Leader of the Opposition, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, it is with sadness and emotion that I rise to pay tribute to you today. We are saying goodbye to a wonderful parliamentarian, the member for Kingston and the Islands, and a great Canadian who has left his mark on this institution, which we all hold so dear. We salute you.

You were elected Speaker by your colleagues four times, making you the longest-serving Speaker in the House and only the second one to have been chosen from the opposition benches. Ten deciding votes have been cast by Speakers of the House since 1867 and you have cast five of them, which is extraordinary.

You have been the voice of this House. You have inspired us—sometimes with kindness, sometimes with firmness, sometimes with great conviction and emotion—to better understand the rules governing this House and Canadian democracy. If only for that, the country owes you so very much.

As Parliamentary Secretary to the Government House Leader, as chair of the procedure and House affairs committee, as Deputy Speaker, and now as Speaker, you have built a legacy that will outlast you and that will endure in the annals of this Parliament.

At the end of your tenure, we all regret, if I may add, that another great lover of parliamentary democracy and procedure, our friend and your friend, Jerry Yanover, is not here to celebrate with us your incredible achievement.

With your departure, Mr. Speaker, this place loses a faithful guardian of our best traditions. We also lose a fierce protector of its privileges. Few Canadians have done more to affirm the supremacy of Parliament. Three times in the last year, you have stood in this House to defend our democracy against the abuse of power. Your rulings are the consummation of a career spent in the service of our institutions and they will echo in the history of our Parliament. For your devotion to this place, you have our gratitude and our respect.

Today, the House stands poised to make history of its own and to make an important and historic choice. The irony is that if this House were to find the government in contempt, it would have one consequence, which all of us deeply regret: We would send a great Speaker into retirement.

So farewell, Mr. Speaker. This House will miss you and we will never forget you.

Topic:   Oral Questions
Subtopic:   Speaker of the House of Commons
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BQ

Pierre Paquette

Bloc Québécois

Mr. Pierre Paquette (Joliette, BQ)

Mr. Speaker, before paying you a well-deserved tribute, I would like to acknowledge the member for La Pointe-de-l'Île, who has announced that she will not be running for office in the next election. I wish to salute her.

It is an immense privilege for me to pay tribute to the hon. member for Kingston and the Islands. Not only are you the longest-serving Speaker in the history of Canada's Parliament, but you managed this feat in a very special context. This has been pointed out, but I believe it deserves to be repeated.

What I would like to say is that, on four occasions, after four consecutive elections, no matter which party was power, no matter whether it was a majority or minority government, the member for Kingston and the Islands was elected by his peers to preside over our deliberations and to be the guardian of the rules of procedure and the traditions of the House of Commons. In my opinion, the confidence the House has expressed in you, four times over, and in a secret ballot, is a great feat, even more than your longevity as the Speaker of the House of Commons.

If I had to describe your work in one sentence, I would say that it is obvious that all your actions have been guided by your profound knowledge of the institution of the House of Commons. This knowledge is the fruit of your hard work and obvious passion for parliamentary business. It is public knowledge that, even as an adolescent, the Speaker of the House was an avid reader of Hansard. Of course.

With this in-depth knowledge of the institution, the member for Kingston and the Islands quickly became the defender of the rules and traditions of the House of Commons at a time when, need we be reminded, these rules and traditions could easily have been diminished. In fact, for more than five years, you have presided over a House of Commons with a minority government. Since 2004, with a number of your decisions, you ensured that the balance between parliamentarians' rights and the government's prerogatives was maintained. It was not always an easy task, I must say.

We will remember you, in your role as the Speaker of the House of Commons, as a man with an engaging personality and whose integrity, intelligence, judgment and knowledge, not to mention sense of humour, have been a source of admiration and inspiration for us all throughout these years.

Therefore, Mr. Speaker, allow me to offer, on behalf of the members of the Bloc Québécois and myself, our most sincere congratulations for the quality and longevity of your tenure as Speaker of the House of Commons. Allow me to say, one last time, thank you for everything, Mr. Speaker.

Topic:   Oral Questions
Subtopic:   Speaker of the House of Commons
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NDP

Libby Davies

New Democratic Party

Ms. Libby Davies (Vancouver East, NDP)

Mr. Speaker, you have given a decade of service to all members of Parliament as our Speaker. Maybe this day is no different from all those others spent occupying the chair, listening to endless points of order that really are not points of order, making your rulings and seeking order, seeking order, and still more order.

Of course, it is different today, in that this appears to be the last such day. So it is fitting that we pay you tribute, and I do so on behalf of our leader, the member for Toronto—Danforth, and our entire NDP caucus.

Mr. Speaker, you were elected or acclaimed as Speaker on four occasions, and it is no small feat in itself to have earned the respect of the House so many times over. You presided at many critical moments, including being the only Speaker ever to decide a confidence vote in 2005.

Mr. Speaker, we remember you for your fairness, your impartiality and your good humour.

You know this place inside out and all of its strange practices that no one really understands but which, at certain moments, become important, even critical, to how we function and do our work for Canadians.

Most of all, though, Mr. Speaker, you will be remembered for your historic rulings on the disclosure of documents dealing with Afghanistan, other document disclosure and questions of contempt, which bring us here today.

You have been our guardian and the guardian of our Parliament. I think it was best said in an article just yesterday in Maclean's magazine, which concluded:

Amid much gnashing of teeth over the state of our parliamentary democracy, [the Speaker] reasserted the power and preeminence of the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, on behalf of the NDP members, we wish you well. We hope you are not left to muttering “Order” in your sleep. We thank you for your service as an honourable Speaker, and we thank your family for sharing you with us and for the work you have done so well.

Topic:   Oral Questions
Subtopic:   Speaker of the House of Commons
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CPC

Andrew Scheer

Conservative

Mr. Andrew Scheer (Regina—Qu'Appelle, CPC)

Mr. Speaker, I hope the House will allow me a few minutes to speak so that I, too, may pay tribute to you. I will not repeat all that we have already heard about your illustrious career as the Speaker of this historic Chamber.

Mr. Speaker, you have been the voice of the Commons for just over 10 years. I have been very proud to have served with you as a Chair for just about half of that time.

In your speech to the House on the first day of the current Parliament, you told members that in your view:

—in a minority House there are certain circumstances that require expertise, not merely experience.

That, I think, has become clear to all members who have served with you since you first took over the speakership of this House in the 37th Parliament. You have shown a great deal of expertise, and not merely experience.

Mr. Speaker, you have consistently demonstrated your vast knowledge of the rules and procedure that guide our deliberations and the precedents that guide the Speaker's rulings

But what stands out the most is the fact that, not only did you carry out your duties with a great deal of expertise, but you did so with a genuine love for Parliament, a true grasp of the important role this institution plays in Canada, and true commitment to its traditions.

Beauchesne's, citations 167 and 168, tells us that:

The essential ingredient of the speakership is found in the status of the Speaker as a servant of the House. The Presiding Officer, while but a servant of the House, is entitled on all occasions to be treated with the greatest attention and respect by the individual Members because the office embodies the power, dignity and honour of the House itself.

The chief characteristics attached to the office of Speaker in the House of Commons are authority and impartiality.

I think all members will agree that those are two characteristics you have displayed very well over the past several years.

Perhaps many Canadians do not know that the Speaker is often called upon to represent Canada abroad at meetings such as the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association, with the speakers of other G8 countries and on bilateral diplomatic visits.

I can tell the members of the House and, indeed, all Canadians, that Canada was always very well represented when Speaker Milliken represented us.

Members of the next Parliament will no doubt miss your presence in the Chair. They will miss your affable nature in guiding this House through some interesting times, and they will certainly miss your expertise.

However, it is said that it is not what one gets out of something that one is remembered for, but what one leaves behind.

You can be proud of the legacy you are leaving here today. I am not talking only about statistics and numbers, as the longest-serving Speaker, for instance, or the highest number of votes taken, but rather as a Speaker who has left such a mark on the position that it is probably difficult for the members and for Canadians to imagine you no longer occupying the chair.

On behalf of all of those who have worked with you, both in the Chair and as table officers and as the many clerks you have served with over the years, I wish you all the best in whatever your days may bring. I know you will always be welcomed in these corridors.

Topic:   Oral Questions
Subtopic:   Speaker of the House of Commons
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March 25, 2011